Most marketing research initiatives focus on specific issues (i.e., reactions to a concept). However, a broad view of brands and categories is also needed for planning, positioning, and product development purposes. Market studies, awareness and usage (‘A&U’) studies, habits and practices studies, and segmentation studies are conducted by Surveys & Forecasts for its clients to obtain a broad market perspective.
- Habits & Practices Studies focus on understanding category-level usage, situations/occasions, and purchasing behavior.
- A&U Studies focus on brand-level issues, such as awareness, purchasing behavior, usage occasions, selection criteria, brand performance, and product positioning.
- Segmentation Studies attempt to identify market segments that differ in terms of brand usage, message receptivity, and demographics. Segmentation studies include elements of A&Us and habits and practices studies but are further distinguished by in-depth attitudinal, psychographic, and personality measures, and the inclusion of extensive brand image exercises.
Because strategic studies are often large, high-ticket items, they tend to be conducted infrequently (e.g., every 2-3 years) as market conditions change, or whenever there is a need for new category knowledge.
Any stimuli used in strategic studies are extensions of the questionnaire. These include the use of brand photos for similarity sorting, attribute statement cards, attitudinal/psychographic statement cards, and self-administered questionnaires. In more comprehensive studies, take-home diaries may also be used to complement other data.
Strategic Study Designs
Strategic studies can be conducted either in-person or via the mail. However, interview length (i.e., an hour or more) precludes doing these studies over the telephone. In-person interviewing, either conducted door-to-door or at a mall facility, is optimal because various stimuli can be used to make the interview less repetitive.
There is no set formula for the design of a strategic study because they are category-specific. Items can include, but are not limited to:
- Awareness, trial, purchasing, and frequency of use
- Frequency of purchasing, outlets shopped, promotion sensitivity
- Household inventory, size, form, quantity
- Usage occasions, situations, HH members using
- Brand substitution/similarity sorting
- Attribute/benefit importance ratings
- Brand attribute/benefit delivery
- Brand image/personality
- Attitudinal self-descriptors
- Media habits, technology use
- Classification and demographics
Analytical needs must be considered in the design process. The use of multivariate statistical techniques is common with large strategic studies. Common techniques include attitudinal segmentation (cluster analysis), factor analysis, hierarchical clustering, regression, and derived importance analyses. As such, the study design must be sensitive to the needs of these different statistical procedures.
The sample size is typically large (minimally 1,000), comprised of random, representative samples of category users (e.g., blade shavers), and usually total US in scope. In addition, boosts to read specific sub-samples are also made (e.g., age groups, geographical regions, brand users, etc.). Larger ingoing sample sizes are necessitated because of the extensive profiling work that is conducted, and the use of multivariate tools.
Pros & Cons
Pros: Broad, comprehensive view of the market from the consumer’s perspective; develop a deep understanding of a category, or a brand’s market position; ability to set strategic direction and identify new product opportunities.
Cons: Expensive; time-consuming; may be driven by unclear information needs; if the scope is too broad, can fall short on actionability.
Cycle time from field start to results can range from several weeks to months and varies significantly by objective. Stimulus preparation (e.g., product pickup, brand photos) can add to this timeline as well.
(Re)positioning work, copy development, or new product development work may be indicated after a strategic study is analyzed – most typically A&Us and segmentation studies.